Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa
Wednesday, August 16, 2000.
Troops Mobilizing in Zapatista Communities in Election Run-Up
Autonomous Municipalities On Permanent State of Alert In North and Lacandona
Paramilitaries Reveal They Will Attack Ejidal Town of La Revolucio'n In Tila
Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Everything appears ready for the final push. The broad paramilitary
offensive by armed bands, of what had been Peace and Justice - in Tila,
Yajalo'n and Palenque, as well the police and paramilitary attacks against
communities in Ocosingo, Altamirano and Chilo'n over the last few days - are
merely the forerunner of what the state government and the still-official
party want to put together for this weekend.
In contrast with what happened on July 2 - when the Army withdrew to its
barracks - during this election run-up, there has been a widespread
mobilization of troops and police forces in the zapatista communities and
in those in which the opposition Alliance for Chiapas has the majority.
Proliferating now are death threats, "land invasions" - at this very moment
(Tierra y Libertad - El Parai'so was the first of the many episodes which
are now taking place) - violent and arbitrary detentions of innocent
persons and the blocking of roads by armed paramilitaries, in uniforms and
frequently wearing ski-masks.
Those polling booths where the PRI did badly on July 2 have been erased
from the map. In the Selva of Ocosingo alone, 8 have "disappeared," as
have 3 in Chilo'n.
The Autonomous Municipalities of the Northern region and the Selva
Lacandona are on a permanent state of emergency. Along the same lines, the
ARIC-Independent, through its leader Porfirio Encino, denounced the gravity
of the situation: "They could kill people. Albores is going all out." In
response to the dozens of "spontaneous" conflicts which are arising - "so
they can justify there not being elections, or that they are held with
strong security operations in order to terrify the people" - the
ARIC-Independent is proposing these urgent demands: the reinstallation of
those polling places which have been eliminated, that the federal Army
remain in their barracks so that they cannot interfere in the elections,
and that the tension in the communities be relieved.
Various sources have confirmed the existence of a new network of satellite
telephones and radio bases which are connecting PRI communities throughout
the entire indigenous region of Chiapas to the 066 system in Tuxtla
Gutie'rrez, which is unofficially controlled by the federal Army, and which
is supposed to be for the civil service for emergencies. Simultaneously,
the rural telephone network has stopped functioning or is banned to the
public, which, if not resolved, will mean that indigenous areas will be
incommunicado to the outside this Sunday. The Alliance for Chiapas fears
that this circumstance will allow for all kinds of irregularities,
including violent ones, without there being any means of informing election
officials and civil observation bodies in time.
The ejidal center, La Revolucio'n, in the municipality of Tila, is at the
point of being attacked by armed civilians from Peace and Justice, who are
currently gathered in Pasija', in the neighboring municipality of Sabanilla.
Two different witnesses, one from Pasija' itself, and the other from Tila,
agree that the paramilitaries have revealed the manner in which they will
be attacking La Revolucio'n at any moment this week. That group does, in
fact, already control the roads and paths in the region. According to the
people, [the paramilitaries] have high-powered weapons, and they have
detained, beaten and threatened campesinos travelling there.
Yesterday, several dozen men dressed in green, in uniforms "similar to
military ones," were seen in the outskirts of Chancala'. They said they
were going to take over La Revolucio'n, "in order to dislocate those
zapatistas." There is fear of an "operation" similar to the one in El
Parai'so, under the currently fashionable pretext of "land disputes."
Agrarian conflicts: they also lead to war?
The Community Defenders of Human Rights Network reported that Peace and
Justice paramilitaries are gathering in different communities, to such a
degree that they are even creating problems with PRI families. Peaceful
PRIistas have expressed their dissent. In Roberto Barrios, one of them was
hung up by paramilitaries, but he managed to free himself and flee. Fear
is running down the spines of PRIs as well as zapatistas or Alliance for
Chiapas sympathizers (PRDs and, to a lesser degree, PANistas).
In Hidalgo, municipality of Palenque, there is another gathering of armed
paramilitaries. And the tension between PRIs in Roberto Barrios is such
that EZLN support bases in that community are "between two fires,"
according to their own testimony.
Differences between the two Peace and Justice groups led to an assembly, on
the 9th, in Arimatea. Campesinos from the 27 communities affiliated with
the organization, in order to review what their leaders had not delivered
for them, such as economic programs and aid programs, which have
disappeared before they have reached the people. Contrary to Sami David's
slogan: The people first.
In a similar vein, the ARIC-Independent is once again noting that PRI
authorities have unleashed a slander campaign against their opponents.
While PRI armed groups "are the ones who are stealing cattle, kidnapping
people, robbing stores, blocking roads and dislocating entire families,"
PRI bases are being told that it is the zapatistas and PRDs who are
carrying out those actions. Using the same procedures, the state
Department of Justice has already jailed campesinos from Union Progreso and
Yajalo'n. It is turning opponents into victims twice over.
The Alliance is demanding the reinstallation of those polling places
eliminated in Amador Herna'ndez, Pichucalco, Macedonia, Sacrificio la
Esperanza, Rio Florida, Campo Alegre, La Unio'n and Patate' Viejo (Ocosingo),
and in Muc'ulja', Chalamchem and Jotoaquil (Chilo'n). Also that rural
telephones be reinstalled, that the federal Army remain in their barracks
and an end to threats, attacks and imprisonments.
In Roberto Barrios, where there is a zapatista Aguascalientes, movements by
Peace and Justice are constant. A few nights ago, around 150 uniformed
paramilitaries went into the community at about 3 in the morning, and they
quickly hung up dozens of propaganda posters with Sami David David's
Threats, Jailings, Dislocations
The Community Defenders Network has denounced that there is open
persecution of human rights defenders from their organization, and many are
receiving death threats. Because of this, they have stopped giving their
names when making denunciations. There have been instances in which these
defenders have been held at military checkpoints, where they are harassed
and their credentials photographed, as evidence against them.
In the Luis Echeverri'a ejido, "Peace and Justice groups are provoking
problems in order to blame the communities in resistance," the Network
says. Military helicopters are making low overflights above the San Felipe
In Palestina, Modesto Herna'ndez Encino, who is in charge of Procampo, and
Mariano Di'az Arcos, have been pressuring PRIs against Alliance for Chiapas
people. The same atmosphere of fabricated violence exists in Arena Segunda
Ampliacio'n and in Santo Domingo.
The building of roads for military purposes has speeded up of late. Such
as the branches which go to Luis Echeverri'a Alvarez from Santa Mari'a,
Chancala' Zapote and Samaritano, "highways which do not benefit the
communities; they are to facilitate the entrance of the military and the
encirclement of the communities," according to the Network. Something
similar is taking place with the project which goes from Roberto Barrios to
Salto de Agua, and which passes in front of the Aguascalientes and
completes the military encirclement of the community.
Lastly - and while no one was detained for Peace and Justice's violent
attack against Tierra y Libertad in Yajalo'n following the intervention of
public security forces - on Friday, August 11, Ocosingo Public Security
police violently detained Isidro Entzi'n Pe'rez, 22, and Natalio Entzi'n
Pe'rez, 16, in the community of Jose' Mari'a Morelos and Pavo'n, in the 17 de
Noviembre Autonomous Municipality (Altamirano).
The fact that numerous PRI campesinos in Palenque and Ocosingo - ready to
cross to the side of change - have joined the PAN may have some bearing on
this dramatic unfolding of events. And, if this is happening in lands
where the PRI is still hoping to milk the "green vote," the fact that the
ruling party is so dangerously raising the political temperature can be